Shanghai to move burial process into cyberspace

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SHANGHAI--The city's internment bureau, calculating it willrun out of room in the local graveyards in 2006, is trying to movethe burial process into cyberspace.

By July, Shanghai hopes to join Beijing and Guangzhou as China'sonly cities to offer free e-grave services to their residents viaan Internet Web site.

It's not that municipal funeral directors have found a way to digitize remains. But they are hopeful they can entice more people intousing "alternative" burial practices by offering an online "mourninghall."

The city is trying to convince local residents to scatter the cremated ashes of their loved ones at sea rather than use up the dwindling supply of cemetery space. But people need a place to mourn.

Paying respects to ancestors is a strong tradition among Chinese,especially at this time of year when they celebrate Qingming, a festival held to honor the dead.

"People feel a loss when they scatter the ashes into the sea andthen have no place to visit their departed relatives," says Yu Kangwei,director of the Shanghai Funeral & Interment Service Center, whichwill operate the as-yet-unnamed Web site.

When the site is up and running, users will be able to log on to the"headstone" of a departed relative or friend and see pictures of thedeceased, access personal information, hear funeral orations and evensend e-flowers. E-mail links to other mourners also will be available.

Copyright April 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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